|Volume 51 Number 8, March 6, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Settling Scores with History:
Bristol Demands Atonement and Reparations for Crime against Humanity
Go Ahead Spy on Striking Manchester Bus Drivers
The Fight For an Anti-War Government:
Important Stands of the Stop the War Coalition
It was announced in the House of Commons on March 1 that the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act (CHIS Act) had received the Royal Assent and thus becomes law. The Act authorises criminal activity, which would specifically include murder, rape, torture, perverting the course of justice and all other crimes defined by civil society, committed by undercover police agents and other intelligence services.
The CHIS Act has been going hand in hand with the passage through Parliament of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, at present at the Committee stage in the House of Lords, which gives immunity from prosecution to British soldiers for crimes including torture and genocide. That Bill would also protect the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State from legal claims to damages.
Britain is a state ruled by police powers, that is, by arbitrary discretionary powers in the hands of the executive and judiciary as well as intelligence agencies, police and armed and special forces. The "rule of law" is nothing other than the rule of these police powers. Any crimes committed by the state and its arms and agencies fall under this "rule of law", and this is the significance of the CHIS Act, which makes it explicit. The "rule of law" is the mode of operation of the British state, committing acts of racism, assassination, terrorism, and then claiming that undercover and political policing is necessary by blaming the people for such acts. In other words, these arbitrary powers, which the state squirms to portray as legal, must be considered not as exceptional and needing to be codified, but making what is supposed to be covert into overt policy, despite all the ongoing attempts of the people's forces to oppose, subvert and condemn it.
It cannot be claimed that these Bills are for the people's security or the protection of rights. In reality, they are designed to wipe out or keep in check the adversaries of the person of state, defended by sword and crook. The legislation is justified by the alleged necessity of protecting this fiction of the person of state. The police powers can be seen as the powers behind the throne, the means by which the state attempts to maintain its rule against the movements of the working class and people for their rights, security and ultimately the achievement of their own decision-making power. The British model of the state, established after the bloody class struggle of the English Civil War, has as its function the safeguarding of the rule of the sovereign and all the powers of the sovereign against the rule of the mob. This is where the political police also play a key function to eliminate any threat to this rule using any means fair or foul.
No matter what reforms take place within this model, they are fundamentally imbued with anti-worker, anti-people and racist ideology as a matter of course and, since the onset of the Cold War in the 20th century, with anti-communism as well. It can be argued that one reason the powers-that-be are so determined that there should be no writing of history but their own writing, and at the very least advocate a so-called balance within historical accounts, is that they are desperate that the people at large should not draw the conclusions regarding the present from the historical facts of crimes against humanity, genocide, crimes of famine and starvation, torture, assassinations, massacres, rape and savagery against the colonised peoples as well as the people of Britain themselves when they failed to toe the line of the ruling class.
Recognising this state of affairs, the conclusion for the working class and people is how crucial it is at this time that the fight of the people for the affirmation of their rights takes centre stage. The issue is not to rescue what are called the liberal democratic institutions by falling back on methods that have been shown always to have recourse to crimes of various sorts conducted by political police and Prerogative Powers. The response can only be to fight in a manner that facilitates the emergence of a modern political personality that takes the form of political arrangements which involve the people in taking the decisions which affect their lives. It is to confront the dangers that face the working class and people by developing the independent political movement for the New, for a modern democracy. Such a modern democratic personality must emerge in the course of the fight to establish an Anti-War Government in Britain.
It has recently been announced that Bristol City Council has overwhelmingly passed a motion demanding "atonement and reparations" for Bristol's centuries-long role in the trafficking of enslaved African people across the Atlantic.
The motion points out that Bristol played a major role, along with other cities in Britain in human trafficking that led to over 15 million Africans being forcibly removed from their homeland and taken to the American continent and many others losing their lives as a consequence. The motion explains, "A significant amount of the institutional and corporate wealth of our city was founded through this atrocious episode in our collective history." The motion passed by 47 councillors and opposed by only 12 concludes:
"Our city and our country need a 'process of repair' to re-examine the reality and impact of Afrikan enslavement and its ongoing impact on communities today. As outlined by the UN, reparations should be holistic and can include many initiatives including public apologies, social justice initiatives, education, cultural projects, commemorative ceremonies and affirmative action. Nobody has the answers as to exactly what reparations should look like - that's why what we are calling for is a process of repair which hears from many of the voices in our communities that have been impacted and are often not heard."
Ahead of the meeting, Green Party councillor Cleo Lake, who brought the motion, said the city had "played a leading role in trafficking and enslaving people, so as a city we now need to play a leading role in being honest about that and calling for systemic change". In addition, the motion highlights the fact that the legacy of this great crime manifests itself in various forms of inequality and racism today. Bristol City Council therefore also resolved to:
"Write to the Speakers of both Houses of the UK Parliament, Chair of the Commons' Women and Equalities Committee, and Chair of the Commons' Home Affairs Committee to express Bristol City Council's view that they should consider establishing, and seeking UK Government support for, an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry. The purpose of this unprecedented commission would be to work on the scope of how reparations may be delivered and may also include for example raising concerns about how tax payers were until 2015 paying back compensation paid to enslavers." Here reference is made to the fact that such "compensation" was added to the cost of the National Debt.
Bristol City Council and the people of the city have already taken steps to address such issues in the wake of the toppling of the infamous stature of the human trafficker Edward Colston last year. Amongst other initiatives it has established a History Commission to assess the legacy of human trafficking in Bristol, and will "identify institutions that benefited from it with a view to help foster a broader understanding of their role...so they can work towards atonement and reparations".
Such actions are clearly in opposition to those of the government which, while claiming to be opposed to racism and inequality has done everything in its power to demonise the mass movement against racism and Eurocentrism that swept through the country last year following the brutal killing of African American George Floyd. The government has also taken other measures to attempt to prevent further anti-racist actions, even writing to some local authorities as well as the Corporation of London to demand that all adhere to what is referred to as a "retain and explain policy", in short that statues and place names of infamous slave traders and other should not be removed even when there is overwhelming local support for such measures. It is to be noted that the Chair of the History Commission in Bristol announced that local people not the government would decide such matters. It is also clear that local people and organisations have played the key role in creating the conditions for Bristol City council's recent historic motion. It is vital that local people and organisations continue to keep the initiative in their own hands on these important questions and not have any illusions about the role of government nor the cartel parties in parliament. What is also vital is that such struggles are pursued on the basis of defending the rights of all.
Over 400 drivers employed by Go North West began continuous strike action in Manchester on Sunday, February 28. Go North West, the regional division of Go Ahead Group, which runs many of the bus services once publicly provided by local authorities, responded by installing 80 new CCTV cameras at the Queens Road depot to watch drivers. The new cameras are in addition to a number that were already in operation.
The drivers' union Unite has condemned the tactic of intimidation, accusing the company of intending to use the cameras for surveillance and to crack down on the slightest break in any rules.
In particular, it is thought that management will attempt to gain leverage in the conditions of the pandemic by recording instances of workers supposedly breaching social distancing rules.
As an example of the atmosphere of oversight, threat and control being fostered, it is reported that managing director Nigel Featham has a screen on his desk monitoring the designated break area at the depot . It is a return to obsolete methods of management, of inspectors or foremen, used in workplaces to intensify productivity and reduce so-called slacking. It is an afront also to workers' dignity.
The bus drivers are striking over new and inferior contracts being imposed under the threat of unemployment. Under the fraudulent claim by Go North West that the depot is "loss-making", drivers are being told that, if they do not accept new contracts, the depot will close. They have been given just eight days to sign, or be dismissed on May 8, in a move of brutal intimidation by the company.
Despite Go Ahead Group recording bottom-line profits - the shareholder claim on the new value generated by the work of the drivers - of £1 billion, its self-serving and capital centric definitions convert such an enormous figure into this or that depot being "uneconomic". This notion of what is "uneconomic" shows the total disregard of its private interests for the economy as a whole; it reveals how those interests are at loggerheads with the general interests of society. The depot will close, regardless of the impact on drivers' livelihoods and the destruction to the local economy and community.
Go Ahead Group own many bus franchises up and down the country, as well as internationally. In many localities in Britain, all routes have been taken over from local authorities. They are lucrative as fares are kept high and there are massive state subsidies to free bus-passes going into private owners' pockets in what is clearly a pay-the-rich scheme. All of which serves to highlight the question as to why should money not go straight into public funds and public authority rather than to private interests?
One demand of workers via their union has been for an independent investigation into the company's assertion that the depot is making a so-called loss. Go North West have refused to comply with this demand. Further, Go North West has been spreading the disinformation that drivers had "volunteered" in accepting the new contracts. Its method is to impose and spread confusion so as to retain total control.
Unite has been involved in "cost saving" negotiations with the company, which had already resulted in raising the profit, the added-value seized by the company, by some £1 million, along with a pay freeze of 12 months that had been accepted, upping the company's claim by a further £200,000. But Go North West wanted more, and unleashed their fire and rehire threat.
The company is attempting to impose terms and measures to drive up productivity by cracking the whip, so as to increase the new value produced by drivers, as well as to increase their claim over that value. Rather than "save costs", it gives the lie to the notion that labour is a cost.
The strike is workers asserting themselves in the face of imposition and intimidation, in defence of their rights and claims on the value they create. Underlying is the need is to organise a new direction for the economy. It raises the question of who has control over their working conditions and the private ownership of key transport sectors of the economy. It is for the workers and people broadly to constitute the new kind of public authority over buses and routes that is required.
"Go North West has revealed its true colours. The company is more interested in spying on its workers, trying to catch them out at every turn, than resolve this dispute," said Unite regional secretary Ritchie James.
"Bullying workers and their families to accept inferior terms of employment is not good industrial relations. The company is guilty of blackmailing workers in times of great uncertainty. It is undignified for the parent company to have £450 million of 'spare cash' floating around and then plead poverty to justify intimidating and bullying its own employees.
"Our members who have worked throughout the pandemic, ensuring key workers in Greater Manchester can get to and from work, are being rewarded for the dedication and commitment with huge pay cuts, which will mean that they and their families will struggle to make ends meet."
1. "Unite accuses bosses of spying on striking Manchester bus drivers", Tim Lezard, Union News, March 4, 2021
The Stop the War Coalition held its 2021 AGM on February 27. We reproduce here the motions presented which were all formally passed by the AGM.
THE ROLE OF STOP THE WAR
This AGM notes
1. That the US and its allies are by far the greatest military powers in the world.
2. That for strategic and resource reasons the US and its Western allies remain committed to exercising control over the fate of the peoples of the Middle East.
3. That the US and its Western allies continue to decisively shape European defence and security policies through NATO, and by renewed Cold War rhetoric aimed at Russia.
4. That China's industrial development has posed a new challenge to US and Western economic predominance in world markets and this has resulted in a new era of international tension.
This AGM believes
1. That the Biden administration will not represent any substantial alteration in the defence and security policies of the US state.
2. US policies will continue to support Israel, the Sisi dictatorship in Egypt, the Gulf monarchies and other clients in the Middle East whilst maintaining hostile policies directed at Iran, the Palestinians, and others perceived as a threat to US interests. Despite distancing himself from the Saudi offensive in Yemen, Biden will not fundamentally break from these policies.
3. That the Biden administration will continue the propaganda war with Russia, and continue to pressure NATO allies to pay more to its budget and commit more forces to East European war games and cyber-warfare projects.
4. That the growing military tension and competition between the US and China will continue under a Biden presidency.
This AGM resolves
1. To continue work to end UK support for the Saudi War on Yemen, the most serious hot war currently in progress.
2. To resist NATO war games and pro-war propaganda aimed at Russia.
3. To resist attempts to dragoon the UK into political, diplomatic or military threats against China.
4. To campaign against the domestic threats to civil liberties generated by pro-war policies.
5. To oppose racism directed at Muslims, Palestinians, Chinese or any other citizens, as a result of war propaganda and chauvinism.
YEMEN: CONTINUING THE CAMPAIGN TO END THE WAR
1. This AGM commends the national campaign for its contribution to the success of the international day of action for Yemen on January 25th. Through international co-ordination a broad alliance of 385 organisations was established which engaged in a series of on-line and actual protests against the Saudi/UAE led coalition's war against Yemen.
2. The international on-line rally was outstanding, with speeches from influential figures. The student rally, organised by STW students and allied organisations, made an important step forward for work with young people. Despite the limits imposed by the pandemic it was encouraging to see a number of open air protests in North America and a number of European countries.
3. It was inspiring to see the extensive mobilisation inside Yemen, where millions took part in demonstrations in 17 cities across 12 provinces. It was also wonderful to see protests across Bahrain, where the level of repression makes such protests very dangerous.
4. We note the temporary ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE imposed by the US government from January 27th, and the ban imposed by the Italian government from January 29th. The AGM agrees the immediate priority for our work in Britain is to secure a ban by the British government on further arms sales to the Saudi and Emirati governments. Branches should consider meetings with peace movement partners such as CND and CAAT. Branches should also use the lobby tool for MPs, and EDM 1399, promoted by Jeremy Corbyn.
5. The anniversary of the start of the war will be on March 26th.
This AGM resolves
1. To support national action on that date, and international action if possible.
SUPPORTING JULIAN ASSANGE
This AGM notes
1. That Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is still held in Belmarsh prison despite the ruling by Westminster Magistrates Court that he should not be extradited to the United States.
2. The US are appealing the decision of the Magistrates Court in the High Court in an attempt to reinstate the extradition.
3. If Assange is successfully prosecuted in the US he faces 175 years in prison.
4. That Assange is charged because he revealed the truth about the Afghan and Iraq wars, about Guantanamo prison camp, and about the secret diplomacy of the great powers.
5. That the extraterritorial application of the US Espionage Act in the indictment of Assange criminalises journalistic activities, in this case activities carried out on UK soil by a non-US national, in collaboration with numerous UK media (including The Guardian, Channel 4 and The Telegraph).
6. That previous statements by the Amnesty International, Unite the Union, the NEU, Aslef and the NUJ, among many others, have supported Assange.
7. That there is a political dimension to extraditions and that the 'special relationship' between the UK and US makes the extradition of Assange more likely to go ahead.
This AGM believes
1. That Assange's indictment comes at a time of heightened threats to the press in Western countries in the form of raids on newspapers and broadcasters, government claims that the press are 'the enemy of the people', and actual prosecutions involving life-long sentences for publishing accurately.
2. That Assange's extradition to the United States would establish a dangerous precedent with regard to the prosecution of journalists in this country under the UK Official Secrets Act given the requirement for the UK courts to accept US arguments as to dual criminality for the extradition to go ahead.
3. That press freedoms in this country will be weakened if the courts accept that journalists' publishing activities in this country can give rise to criminal liability in foreign states and to their consequent lawful extradition.
4. That the publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs and other material by Wikileaks that are the subject of the US indictment revealed important information that has benefitted the public.
5. Disclosing information to the public should never be equated with espionage.
This AGM resolves
1. To campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.
2. To collaborate with the Don't Extradite Assange Campaign to ensure that Julian Assange is set free.
ABOLITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
1. The Stop the War Coalition warmly welcomes the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force on 22 January 2021 as a significant step towards the realisation of a nuclear-weapon-free world. We share the deep concern expressed in the preamble to the treaty about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and we recognise the consequent need to eliminate these inhumane and abhorrent weapons.
This AGM resolves
1. To pledge to work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty by the UK Government, as we consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order and an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples.
THE QE AIRCRAFT CARRIER AND THE NEW "GLOBAL BRITAIN"
This AGM notes
1. The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group armed with US F-35s will sail to the Pacific to demonstrate the government's commitment to "make global Great Britain a reality".
2. This profound shift in international orientation aims to cement the UK into a US New Cold War with China, joining military containment by resuscitating past colonial links East of Suez, and giving a lead to NATO's new orientation against China.
3. Entering the South China Sea may provoke China, risking substantial economic benefits to universities, tourism etc., whilst escalating the likelihood of direct conflict with another nuclear-armed state.
4. Billons were being poured into the project - and still are - whilst an underfunded NHS was left to struggle against COVID.
5. With anti-China propaganda at epic levels, renewed jingoism will soften public opinion for further increases in military spending and a more aggressive military posture.
This AGM believes
The aggressive stance of Western powers towards China presents a serious threat to world peace:
- it presents an obstacle to tackling the real global threats, not least climate change, and may unleash a costly arms race;
- public debate on Britain's role in the world amidst the multiple crises and New Cold War on China is urgent;
- the QE launch presents the opportunity to focus a broad campaign against the Tories' 'Global Britain' and its mindset of militarism, racism and Sinophobia, and foreign interventionism.
This AGM resolves
1. To welcome the call of CND/StWC for a coordinated campaign against the deployment.
2. To endorse:
(i) reallocating military spending from global power projection to welfare and social provision;
(ii) international cooperation for a progressive agenda tackling the problems of poverty, inequalities, racism (including Sinophobia), nuclear threat and climate catastrophe.
3. To call on politicians, trade unions etc. to join the campaign and commit to (i) and (ii) above.
The AGM notes
1. That the current political situation, combined with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders into mainstream politics over the last five years, has radicalised students, particularly in relation to foreign policy and anti-war politics.
2. That students are acutely aware of the effects of the so-called War on Terror, having spent most of their lives hearing about the devastating wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and the Israeli repression of Palestine.
3. That Stop the War has increased its activity amongst students, hosting several successful online meetings, including on war and the climate crisis, the Julian Assange case and on the Yemen War as part of the Global Day of Action in January.
The AGM believes
1. That students will continue to play a vital role in organising against imperialist wars, whether organising on campus at universities, colleges or in wider society.
The AGM resolves
1. To continue to support students in organising meetings around issues such as the Yemen War, Islamophobia and the new cold war on China and continue using Stop the War's social media platforms to help promote these.
2. To work to contact more students and encourage them to set up student branches of Stop the War in universities.
3. To encourage local Stop the War groups to contact students in their area and work with them to organise meetings and other actions.
4. To work with other student groups, such as London Students for Yemen or the Palestine Sol-idarity Campaign's Youth and Student Committee, to build a broad base of opposition to war amongst students.
CAMPAIGNING 20 YEARS ON
This AGM notes
The dangers posed by Biden's foreign policy and the UK's commitment to 'Global Britain' 20 years after the start of the War on Terror
The successes of Stop the War over the last year in campaigning and winning a new audience. Our campaigns against increased military spending, the Yemen War, the cold war with China and Assange's extradition have involved thousands. Over 370,000 people have watched our events since March 2019. Our new website has attracted an increased readership. Our membership has increased by 615.
Stop the War remains the most popular political campaign amongst Labour Party members
This AGM believes
1. Anti-war campaigning remains an essential priority for the movement.
2. Campaigning can be continued even in lockdown conditions through passing resolutions, and through lobbies, petitions and online protests.
3. National success needs to be translated more widely to local organisation. Local groups should hold regular zoom meetings, keep in touch with local membership and systematically work to get support for our initiatives in local trade unions, political party branches and other civil society groups.
This AGM resolves
1. To continue our key campaigns and profile the campaign against the cold war on China by pro-testing against the dispatch of the aircraft carrier to the Pacific Rim.
2. To launch a campaign of resolutions and speakers at Labour Party branches using the No Re-turn to Blair Wars pamphlet.
3. To mark the 20th anniversary of the war on terror with a conference, an exhibition and briefings.
4. To expand our student work.
5. To step up the level of activity in our local branches.
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